Four Countries.
Four Weddings.
One Guy.

Join me on a backpacking journey to four weddings in four countries as I, a wandering and rootless world nomad, seek the secrets to happily settling down. I will look to my global citizen friends for advice and their experiences as they get married in Vietnam, Hawaii, Kenya, and India.
[Read more on the genesis of the project.]

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Demise of Anawangin

For the past couple years, there has been near universal positive buzz in the Filipino backpacking community about a place called Anawangin Cove, just hours north of Manila. Gorgeous, otherworldly, deserted - Anawangin is supposed to be a beach backed by a strange and out of place stand of pine trees and fronted by beautifully clear water. Reachable only by boat or a ten kilometer hike, my friends described it as an undisturbed paradise where you have to pack in all your supplies and dig a hole to relieve yourself. It sounded incredible, but pictures made it look even more stunning, and best of all, you were supposed to have the place all to yourself.

Anawangin, circa 2008 (original) Anawangin, 2011

Unfortunately, after a period of intense buzz, the magic is gone, as is the peace. (Or perhaps I was just hoping for too much to begin with.) Weekends have always been more crowded it seems, but this past weekend, it was a zoo. There must have been at least five hundred people or maybe even a thousand, spread out over a few hundred tents that crowded each other within the forest. Dozens of bancas, big and small were moored on the beach, leaving scant open ocean in which to swim or play. The trail leading to a cliff-top view point suffered from constant traffic jams and a normally quick hike take at least twenty minutes. Beach and forest, which I had been hoping would be untouched were instead filled with make-shift, semi-permanent bamboo huts that served as both faux luxury accommodation (compared to the tents the rest of us were in) and the local Seven 11, a bank of rough toilets and showers, and picnic benches and firepits.

Gone were the beautiful vistas of an untouched beach with pine trees or the forested riverbanks leading into a lagoon. What was left was just a typical tourist scene, marked by unplanned and thoughtless man-made structures with the best natural scenes fenced off with barbed wire so that the owner of the island could charge money for their use. Yet, it is not hard to see why this place has received so much positive word of mouth. It could be stunning, and there is still a lot going for it. The water is still nice, the beach still beautiful and the pine trees still there. If there wasn't a few hundred new potential friends there sharing it with me, I would be pretty happy. A couple of beaches off the main stretch of the cove serve as a reminder of how amazing Anawangin was just a few months ago - deserted and untouched in its pure and unspoiled natural beauty.

Thankfully, even on the main beach, nature has yet to outwardly show permanent consequences. The semi-permanent structures on the beach and in the forest, and the barbed wire fences may be ugly and unfortunate, but they are not un-removable. Yet they are just the beginning and there is no doubt in my mind that at this rate, irreversible damage isn't far off. Already, there is litter scattered about the beach, the forests, and the surrounding hiking trails. Worse, my tour guide told me that the huge amounts of trash generated by hundreds of carefree tour group tourists unconcerned by environmental impacts is disposed of in open mounds deeper in the forest. Nothing is taken off the island and everything is landfilled, including the incredible amounts of recyclables like empty bottles of water and Tanduay Ice.

As bad as this is, it is not the most troubling. Instead I worry about the rates of water usage that ground pumps are drawing out for thousands of tourists a week to wash with, the run off of shampoo and soap that is just seeping back into the ground, the lack of a real sanitation system, the pollution of dozens of daily of banca trips, or the slow effects of thousands of campers on the trees struggling in an already difficult environment.

No, I am certain that Anawangin cannot continue to suffer this level of traffic with this lack of regulation and environmental concern for very long. Something must be done, or something will give.

The truth is that I was at first disappointed that I was not going to get the Anawangin experience I had imagined. Then I got over myself. I was after all, one of the contributors to this madness, just another in the hordes of people who had heard amazing things about Anawangin and rushed over to experience the beauty of nature and (maybe more so) to be able to boast about having gone to friends.

The reality was that I was witnessing the scary underbelly of tourism development firsthand. This was the first season that the fences had gone up, the first season that masses of people were inundating the beach, the first season where running water and toilets were available. Someone (the private owner of the beach) was finally cashing in on his natural gem, and bringing various boat owners and tour group operators up with him. There is money to be made, and they are going to make it.

While I don't want to stand in the way of development, there is a good way to open up tourism and a bad way to do it. Anawangin is fast approaching the bad way. Until the owner (and strangely, I have heard that it is one person who owns the entire cove) reverses course and develops the area sustainably - even potentially limiting the number of people who can visit at any one time - I suggest avoiding Anawangin. If you do go, don't expect peace, quiet, or even much in the way of natural scenic wonder unmarked by human hands anymore. Instead, you will be, like me, both witness and a contributor to the sad demise of Anawangin.

The future of BinaS....

I'm struggling with how to continue to populate Backpacking in a Suit, since the trip ended last year. I've considered putting up excerpts from the translation of the blog to the book, but it's so in draft format that I don't think that's a good idea. So, instead, I think I might just put up some random travel thoughts from the places I'm still going - since this site started with travel, maybe it makes sense to use it to keep sharing my travels. I hope everyone is okay with that!

Of course, that doesn't mean I'll ignore Backpacking in a Suit entirely! I'll still put up pictures that I get around to sorting through, as well as any updates on my now happily married friends! :) Thanks again everyone for continuing to stick with me.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Visions of Lesotho

What? Is it possible? There are still new posts and catch-up photos going up on this website? Yup! You got it. AND.. hopefully... I will get around to putting up a slide-show or two with all of the past photos for easier access!

In the meantime, let's take a stroll down memory lane to Lesotho, one of the most interesting little countries I've ever been to, bordered on ALL FOUR SIDES by South Africa... :)

View from Thabu Bosiu of a village in the valley below

Farming valley near Thabu Bosiu

River valley

Sunset on the road

Farmhouse and Lake

Highway leading into Lesotho

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Night-time view of Dubai

I was browsing through some of my photos from the trip today, and I ran into this night-time view of Dubai taken from the top of the Burj Al Arab. I couldn't resist putting it up. What an audacious city.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Airplanes and Airports

I remember when I used to think that getting on airplanes was so cool and worldly. Now, I just think it's sort of tiring. That's not to say that there isn't something extremely comforting for me about being in airports and getting on airplanes. I've done it so often, and I have my own routine now, that it feels almost like "coming home" in some way. Mentally and emotionally, it's just sort of comfortable. But physically, since I usually fly for like 10 hours at a time, it's just sort of tiring.

Anyway, this post is not actually an exploration of my routine at airports or in airplanes. Instead, this post is about my three can't leave home without it pieces of plastic (nothing naughty please...) - something that I thought of as I was going through immigration the other day in Hong Kong. Which brings me to...

Plastic #1: Hong Kong International Airport Frequent Visitor Card
I applied for this little ID in 2010. All it takes is 3 entries through the airport in a 12 month period. The benefit? Bypassing that annoying line at immigration, that - during peak periods - can stretch for miles and take an hour to get through, even with that famous HK efficiency. I love being able to watch everyone running past me to get into line, while I take my time, indulge in a bathroom break, and then casually stroll to the front of the line. I'm an ass, I know. But I still love it.

Getting out of the airport is one thing, being stuck in one waiting for your flight is another. I remember the days of sitting on those annoyingly uncomfortable gate chairs, with devilishly positioned arm-rests that prevented anyone from being able to sleep well. Since 2006 though, I've been able to avoid all of that at basically every airport I've flown from because of

Plastic #2: Diner's Club Card
To get lounge access at airports, you usually either have to fly a LOT or pay a LOT. I fly a lot, but not a LOT, and we all know I'm always against paying a LOT - so being able to score a Diner's Club card through a Citibank loophole has been one of the best things that I've ever managed to finagle. They don't have lounges in ALL airports, but they have lounges in most, and while they're not all of very good quality, they are generally better than kickin' it at the gate. There's usually food, drinks, and internet. In Hong Kong, I get cable and magazines and even a shower - or I can opt for a 15 minute chair massage. Really, what more could one ask for? Now, I'm often sad when I get to the airport too late to make use of my lounges!!

Finally, the third piece of plastic is also a credit card, but one that's great for another reason.

Plastic #3: Capital One Credit Card
Most people don't realize how much money they get screwed out of when they're abroad. Whether it's forex commissions, shitty exchange rates, or credit card fees, traveling out of the country is almost always an exercise in subsidizing all sorts of banks. Which is why I love my Capital One Visa. It gives me great exchange rates, it's of course accepted almost everywhere, and best of all, it charges my 0% on foreign transactions. Most cards charge somewhere between 2-3% on every transaction (which adds up really quickly.) But Capital One, bless them for this!, charges nothing, and even eats the MC or Visa charge themselves. It means that I'm almost never worried about having enough money when I get somewhere or about getting screwed and messing up my travel budget. Plus, they even offer rewards on my charges. Can you beat that?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Ride on the High-Speed Rail

Another cross posting here guys and gals! Since I'm waxing poetic on the beauty of high speed rail, I thought it would be a more fitting post for "greenpropaganda" but I wanted to make sure to share this cool travel experience with all the Backpacking in a Suit folks also. You can find the full post here:

The World's Fastest Train Service at greenpropaganda

In the meantime, here's an excerpt, and a copy of the (very boring) first ten minutes of my ride. If you want to see how 330km/hr looks, feel free to fast forward to minute 9 or so. :)

Most Americans do not see any reason to construct high speed rail in the country. Why would anyone want to ride a train when they can just fly? There are of course a slew of environmental ramifications of mass airplane travel, but beyond even these, I have always argued that high speed rail makes a ton of sense. Up until now, the only high speed rail I’d ever been on was in Sweden, on my way back to Lund from the Arctic Circle. Even at high speeds, that trip still took 24 hours – an amount of time that certainly makes even the extraordinarily expensive flight much more attractive.

Thus it was with personal excitement and academic curiosity that I decided to take a ride on the world’s fastest train service. Part of the almost finished high-speed rail from Beijing to Guangzhou – essentially from the far north to the far south of the country – the Wuhan-Guangzhou line covers almost 1000km in just over 3 hours. That’s an average of around 300km/hr, and at its fastest, the train hits something like 350km/hr. For those metrically challenged (don’t feel bad, I used a converter), that’s like 210mph, and right around 190mph on average. It is right now, by far, the fastest train ride on the planet, with higher sustained speeds over longer distances than ever before. When the full line is completed, the trip from Beijing to Guangzhou – which used to take over 24 hours – will be cut in a third, to just eight hours. While still longer than the three-to-four hours it takes to fly between the two places, these are speeds and times that truly do make train travel competitive with flights.

Technical specifications aside, what is the actual trip like? Well, fast of course....

First ten minutes of the journey, shot in achingly boring fashion.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New (Beijing) Year

It doesn't quite fit into Backpacking in a Suit, but I thought people might find it interesting, so I'm doing a cross-posting! The return of the E-mail Journal (those who have been reading my stuff for a few years might remember these with either fondness or hatred) is getting syndicated throughout the WWWWW (Wayne's Whole Wide Web World.)

Full entry / Excerpt.....
"Well, here is the return of the Email Journal, since I'm back in China and I can't easily access any of my favorite pieces of social media. No Blogger, no Facebook, no Twitter. Also no Wiki'ing something, and even my own website is still blocked because I use address forwarding. From my brief experience, and from the analysis of some friends, it seems that censorship here has gotten bolder and more encompassing, while at the same time actually losing some of its effectiveness. The government wants to avoid social networks it can’t control, and in their place have stemmed a number of China-specific social networks and micro-blogging sites that the government can exert control over. Yet on social networks of any kind, information has to be posted first to be blocked, and often those precious few minutes of being shared publicly is enough to send the information around the country. It’s a cat and mouse game that’s still playing out, but suffice it to say that the censorship annoys me and seems pretty pointless at the end of the day. Whatever though, the mice are still running around, and that means there’s still hope for the future."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Seasons Greetings!

I, along with the Backpack and the Suit would like to say a hearty Happy Holidays for 2010! Thanks to everyone that has given me their support over the past year. I couldn't have done it without you all!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I've been trying to work on writing a book from the material I have amassed for Backpacking in a Suit, but it’s been frustratingly slow going, as anyone who has followed my Facebook page or Twitter feed has seen. I have a plethora of potential material that I can cover, and I’ve written a bit already, but I’m having a hard time finding focus and true inspiration. Or something of that sort. I am still working on the book, but I knew I needed a break, and I was ready for a bit of a change to try to charge my creative juices.

So, in line with what seems to be a theme for my life this year, I agreed to go to another wedding. In India again. Yes, that makes six this year. Plus, realities are that I have an empty bank account, and as always, a continent (Asia) with a hold on my imagination calling. So, that is how I found myself again with the backpack I tried so hard to leave at home firmly on my back, wearing the absurdly wrinkled and dirty suit caked with dust from a dozen countries around the globe.

This time I started out in Punjab. Two of my classmates from my Master’s program were getting married. They have thus far been the first and only pair to tie the knot from our program, and as such, I found myself in the company of three other classmates that were lucky enough to make the trek. It was good fun, and an interesting point of comparison to my last Indian wedding. I felt like a pro, with plenty of wedding experience under my belt, and did my best to share insight and knowledge into the proceedings with my classmates (Me: “This is where they put a dot on her head”, Friend: “Why do they do that?”, Me: “No idea. I just know they do it.”)

From Punjab, I traveled with a classmate that I last saw in Kampala, to the outer reaches of Rajasthan. We spent a few days in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer before rushing (as fast as you can rush via slow moving overnight trains) towards Gujarat for the second half of the wedding. It seems that typical Indian weddings generally happen between people from the same strata of society who have roots in the same region, thus one huge extended wedding is most fitting. In the case of my friends though, they are from different backgrounds and different regions, so instead of forcing entire clans to travel great distances, they just did two ceremonies. Again, it was interesting to note the differences and similarities, from dress to ceremony to food. The one thing that was similar at both weddings? Tooooo cold.

From there, my friend and I moved on to Udaipur and then to Agra, the same place I spent my last days in India on the previous trip. Unfortunately for me, I found myself in much the same mood, only this time without the luxury of a five-star hotel room to retreat to. For numerous reasons, India causes me to become impatient, stressed, unfriendly, and even a bit violent. It took less than one day in the country for me to start throwing my backpack around in crowds and walk on and off trains with my elbows wielded as weapons. At the end of the trip this time just as last time, I was getting into arguments with taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers, throwing dirty looks about me, and ignoring otherwise well-meaning people. It’s a good thing that I anticipated my reaction and only scheduled 12 days in the country.

Now I am back in Beijing, exploring the fast-changing and increasingly upscale city while eating loads of good food. I’ll spend the holidays here before heading back to Hong Kong for a few days of rest and relaxation in the middle of January. After that, I’ll be taking my talents back to Manila, where I plan to work for a few months and hopefully carve out some time to continue writing the book. This is perhaps the biggest news, and it means that I will continue on with my nomadic lifestyle well into the second half of 2011. One trip to the next, one city after another, so it all continues ever onward and I am left to ponder one simple question (along with the content of my writing):

Wasn't Backpacking in a Suit supposed to the final, satisfying scratch to this decade long itch of constant movement?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Visions of India, vol. 1

Some random selections from my time in India....

Streetside Grill

Decorative Roof, Jaipur

The Train to Shimla, UNESCO

The Original Two-seater


Life without OSHA

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Surprise, surprise... a wedding!

I’m not sure what it was, the tens of thousands of photos I took or the length of time I was traveling, but ever since I finished the travel part of the project, I have suffered from an intense lack of desire and motivation to take photos. It’s not just that I’m at home, looking at things that I see on a regular basis all the time, but that I just don’t feel like picking up my camera at all or looking through the viewfinder.

I thought that three months off would cure me, but this past weekend at my sister’s wedding, I was faced with the undeniable fact that I was still completely uninterested in taking any pictures. It’s too bad, because as a veteran photographer at four weddings since 2010 started, I feel close to a pro at this point. It would have been nice to put that experience to good use at my own sister’s wedding, but I left my camera in the car for the first couple hours, and then after half-heartedly taking a few pictures during the gorgeous ceremony (backed by a brilliant, almost cloudless sky that overlooked the ocean waves lightly rolling onto a beach) I hung my camera bag on my chair and then ignored it for the rest of the night.

Granted, I was the brother of the bride, with responsibilities including giving a speech and playing host, and really had little time to take pictures. Honestly though, even with fewer duties, I don’t know that I would have taken many more. It’s strange. Even the feel of my camera, hanging around my neck like a gargantuan pendant, is no longer comforting to me. I really wonder when this aversion to my camera will give way to that warm glow of familiarity that I am so used to.

On the plus side though, without my camera, I did a lot more talking, chatting, and hosting at the wedding. It was great fun to hang out with my relatives, see my sister’s friends, and be a part of a very special day for my family. I just wish I had taken some more photos with my parents and my sisters.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Visions of Vietnam - vol. 1

Did you know you can make the pictures bigger by clicking on them? Hahaha, anyway, here's a first batch from Vietnam. Lots of pictures from there, and slow going. Hope you enjoy the first 10!

Woman carrying packages, Hanoi

Daydreaming girl, Hanoi

Atmospheric alley, Hanoi

The Painter, Hanoi

The Child, Hanoi

Taking a fishing break, Hai Phong

An alley marketplace, Hai Phong

Grilling breakfast, Hai Phong

Scooter helmet vendor, Da Nang

Roast duck, Da Nang

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Okay, this is a little narcissistic, but I really like this map, so I thought I'd share! I have a utility that plots visitors to my blog on a Google Map. This was the one for last month.

You guys are all awesome! Thanks for all of the support and for giving me a reason to continue. I'm still hard at work on figuring out how to turn the stuff in the blog into a book. I've written close to 40,000 words already in a super-draft format, but am still VERY far away from finishing. It's going slowly, but the continued support of all of you from around the world helps me keep the faith!

I will try to put up some excerpts from what I've written in the coming weeks. For now though, another huge, hearty THANK YOU!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Capsule Spot: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon, as it was once known) surprised me. It was more vibrant, more dynamic, more enticing than I had expected. The city is in that nice transition phase, where everyday Western luxuries like coffee shops and good pastries are readily available while the city still retains much of its flavor and character. It is also still relatively cheap, so travelers on a budget won’t cringe here, and those with a taste for luxury don’t have to break the bank.

Things to See and Do
Mekong Delta | While still a ways away from HCMC, the Mekong Delta is a convenient one day or overnight excursion, and worth doing. See how people are living in modern times on the most important river in Vietnam, and get a taste of local delicacies and fruits. Traditions may not be as strong as they once were, but a trip to the Mekong is still a good way of getting a taste of how the “real” Vietnam lives. One day trips involve quite a bit of road travel in relation to time spent on the river, so I’d suggest an overnight trip instead. Many companies also offer three day trips, but this seems to be a bit of overkill.

War Remnants Museum | This place used to be known as the Museum of American War Crimes. It has recently changed its name, after relations with the US normalized, but I daresay the contents of the museum have remained largely the same. The exhibits here present an unfortunate and wasteful war in all of its gory detail, and while there is no doubt propaganda here, I would venture to guess that there is more that is true than many Americans would want to believe. Disturbing exhibits aside, the collection of left-over American war machinery outside alone makes this museum worth visiting.

Saigon Saigon Bar @ the Caravelle | One of the most famous landmarks in Saigon, the Saigon Saigon is still worth an evening, if not for the drinks, then for the amazing view of downtown Ho Chi Minh. Located centrally, across from the Opera House, the views from Saigon Saigon are unparalleled. Especially nice on a cool evening, bring your camera and your wallet – drinks are not cheap.

The List
Yearning for a good massage but want to avoid those awkward happy ending offers? Look no further than 118 Foot & Body Massage, a smallish, new, clean, and totally legitimate spa in the heart of downtown Saigon. For a little less than 15 dollars, get access to a hot shower, a sauna, and an 80 minute oil massage complete with hot stones. 118 Pasteur Street, District 1, HCMC. 08-38215313

It’s a bit hidden and off the beaten track, but if you’re looking for a good French patisserie and boulangerie, you may want to drop by La Doree. Owned by a French Vietnamese, this place serves delicious looking pastries and decent food in a comfortable restaurant.

Essentially every tourist will have come to Ngon, but for good reason. Few other places offer the combination of food selection, tourist-friendly menu, cleanliness, and taste that Ngon does. Get pretty authentic specialties from around the country, and – added bonus! – finish off with traditional desserts. Reasonably priced for a tourist trap.

World-wise wisdom
Getting around – taxi’s are easy, but by no means necessary. Don’t be afraid to get on the bus. For 3000 dong, you can get into downtown Saigon from nearly anywhere.

If you’re backpacking and not 21, avoid the Pham Ngu Lau area. There are plenty of affordable (but not super-budget) options in other parts of town. Try the area behind Banh Trinh Market, or just south of the Opera House. You should be able to find a private room from 20USD and up.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Capsule Spot: Hong Kong

With all of the good stuff that I’ve said about Hong Kong, and as much time as I’ve spent there, it’s surprising that I’ve never actually complied a mini-travel guide to the place. Well, the Capsule Spot seems like the perfect way to correct this situation. By now, anyone reading this should know that Hong Kong holds an incredibly special place in my heart – one of my favorite cities in the world, if not my very favorite. Food, chaos, energy, and the prettiest skyline in all of the world. What’s there not to like?

Things to See and Do
The Harbor | This is the only must-do activity in Hong Kong, and truthfully, much of what you will do in Hong Kong is a variation there-of. From finding restaurants with great views, to getting a stellar hotel room, to visiting the Peak, all of it is to see what is likely the most amazing skyline in the world. Better yet, the best view has been and still is free – directly across the Harbor in Tsim Tsa Tsui near the Star Ferry terminal. Take a leisurely stroll along the water’s edge and give yourself a good hour to just let your eyes and mind wander aimlessly over human ambition.

Escape the Chaos | Hong Kong is one of the most over-whelming places you will ever visit. With nearly 16,000 people per square mile and buildings that rise to nearly incomprehensible heights everywhere, it is easy to forget that that less than 25% Hong Kong’s total area is developed. Get out and see the parks, the beaches, or the outlying islands. Lamma Island is popular with ex-pats for it’s laid-back vibe, while Cheung Chau island offers the annual bun-festival in a sleepy island setting. Both are easily accessible by ferry. If you’re water-averse though, head to the back-side of Hong Kong Island to the sleepy hamlets of Repulse Bay, Aberdeen, and Stanley and take some pictures of beaches, junks, and the 1960s. There are also quite a few decent beaches in Hong Kong – locals swear by Big Wave Bay on the far eastern side of Hong Kong Island, while more ambitious folk will appreciate the isolation of a beach like Hap Mun Bay.

Mong Kok |Probably the most densely populated areas in one of the most densely populated places in the world, Mong Kok is full of people. It is worth going to on the weekend just to witness what a sea of humanity really looks like. It helps also that Mong Kok is one of the most vibrant shopping districts in the city, with malls (Langham Place), street stalls (Ladies Market), and hundreds of places to buy electronics. Goldfish Street is also fun to check out during the day, and there are a plethora of food choices (see below for my personal choice for BBQ here!) Finally, being the transit hub for all of Kowloon means that you’ll find ridiculous amounts of people wandering about at all hours here. It’s just like being in a triad movie (which are all based on Mong Kok anyway.) You have to see it to believe it.

The List
BBQ or char siu as it is more correctly known, is some of the best meat you’ll ever eat. Dim Sum lovers will know this best from BBQ pork buns, but it’s not the same until you get it fresh, still dripping, from the window. Try it at Wing Kee Restaurant (177 Portland Street) while taking a rest from all of the walking and shopping in Mong Kok; and since you’re in the adventurous mood, just go ahead and go crazy – get the crispy skin roast pork, the roast duck, and the roast goose too. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Some of the best Indian in the world can be found in Hong Kong, owing to its colonial past and the many Indians that the Brits brought over with them. A vegetarian friend introduced me to Branto in Tsim Tsa Tsui (9 Lock Road, 1/F) years ago, and I’ve been going back ever since. Everything is pretty good, but make sure you get the pani-puri. It’s safe and tasty.

A good meal deserves a good dessert to boot. Hong Kong desserts are just great. You can go the traditional route, with things like red beans soup or hazelnut milk. Or, you can go my favorite route, and get some of the fruit based desserts. Honeymoon Dessert is one of the more famous and reliable chains – you can find outlets in many malls (try Langham Place in Mong Kok, or World Trade Center in Causeway Bay.) I, however, almost always stop by Cheung Kee in Yau Ma Tei (21 Woo Sung Street.) Here, I have three words for you: mango, pomelo, sago. Delicious.

Most people go to Lan Kwai Fong for nightlife, but that’s so blasĂ©. Instead, get a view with your drinks at these pricey but high-value bars. AquaSpirit is on the 30th floor of One Peking in Tsim Tsa Tsui, offers so-so food and absolutely stunning view of Hong Kong (translation: just get a drink here.) On Island-side, Azure at the top of LKF Hotel in upper Lan Kwai Fong offers 29th floor views from the top of a hill. Nice. In Admiralty, you can check out how Swire does swank at the Upper House in Pacific Place Mall. CafĂ© Grey Deluxe, on the top floor, is now the place where the who’s who in HK go to be seen, and has been getting rave reviews for the food – I haven’t tried it yet, but I find it hard to believe that anything could be better than the view here.

Finding a good place to stay in Hong Kong is always hard (and harder if you’re on a budget.) Screw it, just pay up and find out what real luxury feels like. Hullett House in Tsim Tsa Tsui offers only suites, and only 9 of them, all individually designed. Expect to pay over 500USD a night. The Peninsula, also in Tsim Tsa Tsui, is proven luxury, while I’ve heard good things about both Upper House and EAST from Swire (although EAST is a bit further from where the action is.) The most affordable 5-star luxury hotel in all of Hong Kong though, seems to be the Langham Place in Mong Kok, where a room is still just around 200USD. Being the only one of the above I’ve stayed in, I’m recommending this one.

World-wise Wisdom
Take the MTR. Everywhere. It’s fast, cheap, and simple to ride. If you’re there for a week, consider getting an Octopus card. It costs 50HKD to start out with, but you get a discount on all rides and it makes for a pretty cool souvenir.

The cheapest way to get from the airport to anywhere you want to go is by bus. The E buses are cheapest, but take much longer. The A buses are more expensive, but faster – about 40 minutes to Central on Hong Kong Island. If you’re in a rush though, feel free to splurge on the Airport Express train – about 10USD for a 25 minute ride to Central Station on Island side.

The best value (outside of the Star Ferry which is universally known as a tourist must-do) is the Island-side trolley that runs from Sheung Wan to Causeway Bay. For 2HKD, you get to go virtually the length of the island and see the city from a whole other perspective. Plop yourself down on a front seat upstairs and just enjoy the ride – it’ll take close to an hour with traffic, but you’re a tourist with time, aren’t you?